When this story opened with Deena Hammond, the near-white, bi-racial female protagonist walking through the detritus of her African American Grandmother’s neighborhood where she was raised, I was saddened by the incongruity of this image as she strolled through in her designer clothing. The meticulousness of Ms. Pugh’s prose gave me a clue that while this story was for the most part well-written (there were some structural plot issues, copious instances of improperly words, and some grammatical errors that should’ve been caught by Ms. Pugh’s editor–whom I blame wholeheartedly for what didn’t qualify her for five stars), the author was going to go there with this story. She didn’t begin exactly in medias res, but she was all set to plop her characters down into a whole mess of conflict.
Having suffered the loss of both parents, one to death and the other to prison, Deena had been raised by her grandparents–a now deceased, intolerant grandfather and a prickly grandmother who eschewed Deena and her siblings’ bi-racial heritage. However Grandma Emma doesn’t hesitate to use her successful, architect granddaughter as a cash cow to help support them.
Deena meets Takumi Tanaka when her gangster brother, Anthony, encounters the lost Asian male driving a luxury car through the streets of Liberty City. Saving Takumi from robbery and/or death by her brother and his thugs, Deena impresses the young Japanese man, who can’t forget the biracial beauty who virtually saved his life. When Anthony is murdered, Deena relives the pain of her father’s death. It is clear in the opening chapters that although Deena appears to possess all the trappings of success, her emotionally abusive extended family has robbed her of her self esteem. It bothered me that she was so long-suffering and tolerant of their abuse. So many times I wanted to scream at her to “grow a pair,” even though I knew that was physically and anatomically impossible. Here was a twenty-five year old woman allowing her grandmother, one aunt, and cousins to ride rough-shod all over her feelings.
Takumi Tanaka comes into her life at just the right time and exposes her to a whole new world–literally. During the course of their friendship, he takes her on the first true vacation she’s ever had and they take a twenty-something glorious day vacation, which I won’t describe to you, because that would be too spoilerish (is that a word?). I love that their relationship developed over time and there wasn’t insta-love occurring within days of meeting him like so many of the contemporary romances that are popular now. Tak befriended Dee, all the while hoping for more, so much so he had me screaming at him to “make a move already, buddy!” Tak was so tender with Dee, so gentlemanly, and a truly swoon-worthy male protagonist. He helps her to find the courage she needs to stand up for herself with her family and her boss–who just happens to be Tak’s father–and is a horse of a totally different color!
Daichi, Tak’s father while emotionally absent from his own family becomes like a mentor, and in some respects a surrogate father to Deena. He’s tough-as-nails and says exactly what’s on his mind, but he’s a brilliant architect whom Deena found the wherewithal to approach while she was a student at M.I.T. and wowed him with her near-photographic memory and her architectural knowledge. With the exchange of a few words, he offered her an internship upon graduation, and she impresses him with her work ethic once she’s on staff enough for him to take her own as his protégé. Over time, Daichi and Dee begin to confide in one other about familial things.
At its core, this is Dee and Tak’s story, but there is a parallel storyline involving Lizzie which is excruciating to read. I felt that in some ways it deserved its own story because it detracted so much from what was going on with Dee and Tak, I sometimes resented the chapters about Lizzie for some reason. I think it had mainly to do with the fact that there’s so much going on it convoluted the story somewhat. And I suppose since the story was told in sort of a limited semi-omniscient third person POV, I didn’t feel like I connected or identified with Lizzie as much. However, the third storyline involving Daichi was done exceptionally well. Alpha-male though he was, I totally got him as a sympathetic character because Ms. Pugh did an excellent job of describing the social mores which governed the Japanese culture, combined with Daichi’s tortured personal emotional landscape.
There were some instances where the description was over-kill, and a chapter from Tak’s POV that involved no dialogue whatsoever, as well as a few places where suspending belief was difficult. (I’m still mad at whoever edited this story. As a writer myself, I found it unacceptable. It gave the appearance that two people wrote this story. One with stellar prose and dialogue at times, and another who left out words and flubbed some of the grammar.) All-in-all it was an exceptional read in terms of Ms. Pugh’s presentation of the love story itself, and the architectural terms which made Dee’s vocation totally believable. The author also writes very well from a middle-aged Asian man’s POV. The dialogue between Daichi and his family and with Deena was so spot-on.
Early on, Dee and Tak agree to hide their relationship from almost all of their dysfunctional family members, the only exception being Tak’s kid brother Kenji and first cousin, John. The story stacks up rather nicely as a formula for true disaster, and Ms. Pugh doesn’t disappoint.
Will Dee and Tak come clean with their families before it is too late? Or will they remain un-enlightened, spawning a chain of events that will most assuredly derail Dee and Tak’s growing love for one another? What causes the Crimson footprints? Find out when you read this explosive story about love, dysfunctional families, cultural differences, and acceptance.
This was an ambitious undertaking and the author almost pulled it off, but it had so many characters, some of whom weren’t introduced until much, much later, and the parallel storylines weighing it down. Watch out, readers! When Ms. Pugh gets a better publisher, editor, and more writing craft under her belt, she’s going to take the world by storm!
I give Crimson Footprints 3.5 stars because I loved Ms. Pugh’s style of writing and the story so much, I was able to overlook the literary faux pas.